By Scott D. Parker
Last week, I wrote about my trip to the Galveston Railroad Museum for research and for inspiration. This week, I had the wonderful happenstance of asking a simple question...and getting a whole new wrinkle on the new book.
I started the new book on the first of the month. It's a World War II espionage thriller set in the days immediatley preceeding the Nazi invasion of France, Belgium, and Holland. My American characters start the story in Washington and events conspire to compell them to go to England.
Now, when I originally envisioned this "getting to England" scene, I imagined the scene from all the Indiana Jones films where a map is shown with a red line to indicate the route travelled. Come to find out, when World War II started in 1939, Britain cancelled all civilian air travel. My heroine would not be able to fly to England.
That left ocean liner. Okay, no problem. Helped with the timeline of the story anyway. But then I ran into a road block: where did ocean liners dock in England? I knew it was unlikely to be London, so I assumed it was going to be somewhere on the southern coast.
Now, my day job is for an oil and gas company with a multinational group of folks who work in my building. There was a gentleman down the hall--and higher on the pay scale--with an accent I pegged on Day One as "John Lennon." That meant Liverpool. A couple of days ago, I stuck my head into his office and asked if he knew anything about where ocean liners docked in Britain in 1940.
He grinned. Asked me to come into his office and shut the door. Then and there, I got a mini-lecture on Liverpool, Bristol, and another port I can't remember right now. White Star Lines was the company who operated all the liners. I knew that name from "Titanic." He preceeded to give me lots of local color about Liverpool, the folks who populated the surrounding region, and the Adelphi Hotel. That last was the answer to my question, "Where might a rich person stay?"
It was awesome. And unexpected. Heck, he even verified that amount of money--and the color of the five-pound note--that my spy was going to use to bribe one of the hotel workers. Who knew he was such a fount of knowledge? I certainly didn't...until I asked.
So, that's my Lesson Learned this week: don't be afraid to ask folks if they might know something about a topic for your stories. You just might be surprised.